Lalande and Adams: New immigration targets essential for Canada’s economic prosperity

While I disagree with the government’s “the more the merrier” approach, I also worry that housing shortages, a strained healthcare system and other weaknesses may understandably erode support. And it is positive that the CI and others are more forthcoming of these issues, or the costs of increasing immigration:

Canada is breaking records on immigration. The federal government recently announced increased targets for the next two years, with the intention to welcome a record 500,000 new permanent residents in 2025. Statistics Canada’s latest release from the 2021 census shows immigrants now make up a greater share of the population than at any point in our history as a country. The latest Focus Canada survey reportbreaks a record of a different kind: Canadians have never been more supportive of immigration than they are today, showing Canada truly stands out for its openness to diversity and change.

These points also suggest an awareness of the vital contribution immigrants make to the country’s social and economic fabric. That may in part explain why Canadians have grown more open to immigration and multiculturalism, not less. The Focus Canada survey report found 70 per cent of Canadians support current immigration levels—the largest majority to do so in more than four decades of polling.

Similarly, there is also growing public support for accepting refugees, not only from Ukraine, but also from countries such as Afghanistan. Three-in-four Canadians now agree we should accept more newcomers from parts of the world experiencing major conflicts—twice the proportion that held that view 20 years ago.

This is remarkable at a time when nationalism, populism, and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise globally. But while Canada has been more welcoming than most nations, support for immigration in this country cannot be taken for granted. As the country wrestles with rising inflation, housing affordability, a strained health-care system, and an increasingly toxic political environment, support for immigration could erode.

Our research shows concerns about immigration have to do with how quickly newcomers integrate into Canadian society. Canadians are fairly evenly divided as to whether there are too many immigrants coming to Canada who are not adopting our values. But the proportion who disagree has also never been as high as it is today. Indeed, the survey found nine in 10 of us now see multiculturalism as important to Canadian identity, and a steadily growing majority of Canadians are rejecting the attitude that Canada accepts too many immigrants from racialized cultures.

Our research also provided some interesting regional insights. In Quebec, where immigration was a campaign issue in the provincial election, our research confirmed Quebecers are no less supportive of immigration and no less welcoming of refugees than Canadians elsewhere in the country. Quebecers are especially sensitive to potential threats to language and culture, but like other Canadians, Quebecers recognize the benefits immigration brings to our economy and society.

The insights into Canadians’ attitudes toward immigration and immigrants are invaluable at this juncture in our history. Our population is aging, our work forces shrinking, the demand for skilled labour growing more acute, and our birth rate is at its lowest in more than 100 years. This is creating demographic pressure we must address if we want to sustain the quality of life we’ve grown accustomed to and want a prosperous future for the country’s next generations. Immigration is the only way we can address the growing demographic and economic pressures we’re facing. The support Canadians show for immigration should provide our elected leaders with the political courage required to invest in attracting more newcomers to Canada.

Naturally, challenges remain. We do not always deliver on the promises we make to newcomers. Many face barriers—whether in the form of prejudice, or red tape—as they try to put the skills they bring with them to work. Immigrants, and especially the children of immigrants, expect not only public attitudes to change, but also the policies and practices of public institutions, such as the health-care system and our police forces.

The fact remains that these challenges are much more likely to be met when the public is solidly onside—meaning we can face them together. We are no utopia. But whatever issues may divide Canadians today, immigration is not one of them. In this sense, the country has never been more united. That’s an advantage and an opportunity that we, as a country, can’t afford to ignore—our economic future depends on it.

Michael Adams is the founder and president of the Environics Institute for Survey Research. Lisa Lalande is the CEO of Century Initiativea non-partisan charity aimed at increasing Canada’s population to 100 million by 2100.

Source: New immigration targets essential for Canada’s economic prosperity 

Lalande: Is #immigration at risk? Canadian attitudes could shift without proper planning

Broadening of the Century Initiative messaging to more explicitly address and mitigate externalities (as described in their scorecard), and a focus on “growing well” rather than just on demography and growth:

Welcoming and accepting successive waves of immigration has been one of Canada’s global advantages. Historically Canadians have recognized that immigration helps us innovate, grows our economy, keeps our public services solvent, develops cultural connections and business relationships with communities all over the world, and contributes to meeting our labour and skills needs – something that requires urgent attention right now.

Whatever their other points of disagreement, Canadians have welcomed immigrants and acknowledged the contributions they make to our economy and our social fabric.

While not yet at the stage it may be at in some other countries, that consensus may fraying and at risk of coming apart.   When Canadians are facing real day-to-day challenges in the forms of rising inflation and interest rates, housing unaffordability, labour shortages in healthcare and crumbling physical infrastructure, it can be difficult to see how welcoming more people in the country could help.

That unraveling is ever faster as divisive political discourse spreads and grows louder. There is deep anger we see reflected online in a rapid increase of hateful, racist and nationalistic comments.  Through my work at Century Initiative, I have experienced this vitriol directly, and I know many of you have too.

In the interest of our economic future we need to act now. Immigration is crucial to our development as a society, an economy and a nation.  We need more immigration and more supports for immigrants. We must continue to be the best country in the world in welcoming immigrants.

At the same time, we need to have an honest conversation about ensuring the benefits of immigration cascade to Canadians already living here – and mitigating any possible negative impacts of a growing population. Those discussions must be civil and focused on finding solutions.

At Century Initiative, we speak a lot about ‘growing well’. This means that not only do we need a growing population, but we need the policies, the public institutions and the physical infrastructure that will allow us to achieve sustainable population growth AND a prosperous country for all of us – old and new.

We need to make sure immigrants can contribute economically to their highest potential – by recognizing their credentials and by ensuring immigrant settlement agencies can support entrepreneurs and small businesspeople.

It also means recognizing the link between population growth and our ability to meet our health care, infrastructure and other needs. For example, with relatively low unemployment, population growth at its lowest in more than 100 years and growing demand for labour, we simply do not have the skilled workforce we need to build houses, highways and other infrastructure or staff our hospitals and other high demand jobs.

Take, for instance, our housing needs. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation recently estimated restoring housing affordability, will mean building nearly six million new housing units between now and 2030. At present, we are nowhere near being able to meet that target, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that we do not have the labour required to build what needs building.

Similarly, our shortage of healthcare professionals is leading to a crisis in a pandemic-battered public healthcare system. Our strained public services – even with respect to things as simple as passports – are creaking under soaring demand.

These are grave structural problems. Immigration can help address them.  Thankfully, no prominent politician has suggested limiting or eliminating immigration.  Let’s make sure it never happens.

The Canadian immigration model is a light unto the world. It’s our secret weapon – allowing our trading and innovating nation to become home to the world’s best, brightest and most ambitious.

But it is also fragile.

If we are going to grow, we need to grow well. And growing well means fixing the structural problems which make growth painful for ordinary Canadians – so that immigration can be part of a long-term solution for sustainable public services, a growing economy, and a prosperous country.

Source: Is immigration at risk? Canadian attitudes could shift without proper planning

Dutrisac: De grandes ambitions postnationales [Immigration and Quebec]

Regarding the medium and longer-term impact of increased immigration in the rest of Canada in contrast to relatively static numbers for Quebec, along with some of the fallacies that characterize the government’s reliance on high immigration levels to strengthen the economy and address an aging population.

Le gouvernement Trudeau voudrait bien que le Québec hausse ses seuils d’immigration pour qu’ils se rapprochent des cibles canadiennes, puisqu’Ottawa compte accueillir un nombre record d’immigrants au cours des prochaines années.

Dans une entrevue accordée au Devoir mercredi, le nouveau ministre fédéral de l’Immigration, des Réfugiés et de la Citoyenneté, Sean Fraser, a voulu encourager le Québec à augmenter le nombre d’immigrants qu’il reçoit. « Je crois que le Québec est conscient du besoin de recourir à l’immigration pour s’assurer que les entreprises trouvent des travailleurs », a-t-il déclaré.

Juste avant l’arrivée des libéraux de Justin Trudeau au pouvoir, en 2015, le nombre d’immigrants admis au Canada, sous le gouvernement Harper, variait entre 250 000 et 260 000 par an. En 2019, avant la pandémie, ce nombre était passé à 341 000. Après une chute à 184 000 immigrants en 2020 en raison de la pandémie, les seuils repartent à la hausse pour atteindre 401 000 cette année, 411 000 en 2022 et 421 000 en 2023. Ces derniers chiffres tiennent compte d’un certain rattrapage, mais l’intention, c’est de devenir le gouvernement canadien le plus ambitieux de tous les temps en matière d’immigration, comme l’a signalé le ministre Fraser.

Au Canada anglais, l’organisme Century Initiative tente de convaincre le gouvernement Trudeau d’admettre graduellement de plus en plus d’immigrants pour atteindre les 500 000 en 2026, avec comme objectif ultime de faire passer la population canadienne de 38,5 millions à 100 millions en 2100. Le Canada serait plus fort et aurait plus d’influence sur le plan mondial, avance ce groupe de pression, les Canadiens seraient plus riches, les coffres de l’État seraient mieux garnis, les pénuries de main-d’œuvre ne seraient qu’un mauvais souvenir et le vieillissement de la population serait stoppé.

Ces représentants de l’intelligentsia canadienne-anglaise ne sont pas les seuls à croire que l’admission débridée d’immigrants contribuera à accroître la richesse du pays et à réduire le vieillissement de la population. C’est le discours que tient généralement le milieu des affaires.

Or, comme l’ont montré les chercheurs Parisa Mahboubi et Bill Robson, de l’Institut C.D. Howe, cités par l’économiste Pierre Fortin, l’effet de l’immigration sur le vieillissement de la population est marginal. C’est plutôt la participation accrue des travailleurs de 60 ans et plus, comme au Japon, par exemple, qui est le moyen le plus susceptible de réduire les effets du vieillissement sur le marché du travail et les finances publiques.

À Ottawa, on n’hésite pas à lier l’immigration à un accroissement de la richesse du pays. À cet égard, il ne faut pas oublier que ce n’est pas la grosseur de la tarte qui importe, mais bien la grosseur de la part qui revient à chacun. Autrement dit, c’est le produit intérieur brut (PIB) par habitant dont il faut se soucier. Ainsi, les Néerlandais, dont le pays accueille relativement peu d’immigrants, sont plus riches que les Allemands, qui en ont admis davantage. Il n’y a pas de corrélation.

Quant à l’idée qu’une forte immigration soulagerait les pénuries de main-d’œuvre, c’est « un pur sophisme », nous dit Pierre Fortin. L’immigration accroît le bassin de main-d’œuvre, mais aussi le nombre de consommateurs de biens et de services du commerce et de services publics. Certes, une sélection précise des immigrants peut aider à pourvoir des postes de travailleurs qualifiés en forte demande. Mais augmenter tous azimuts les seuils d’immigration comme le gouvernement Trudeau l’envisage peut accroître le chômage chez les nouveaux arrivants.

La question de la pénurie de logements commence sérieusement à se poser. Comme les immigrants s’établissent en majorité dans les grands centres urbains, une pression intenable s’exerce sur le marché immobilier, comme on peut le constater à Toronto, à Vancouver et, dans une moindre mesure, à Montréal.

C’est sans compter la situation bien particulière du Québec. La politique d’immigration du gouvernement Trudeau fait fi du poids démographique du seul État à majorité francophone de la fédération. S’il fallait suivre le rythme imposé par Ottawa, qui plus est sans qu’il y ait eu de débat, ce n’est pas 50 000 immigrants par an que le Québec devrait accueillir, mais bien 95 000 et davantage, une impossibilité. Déjà, il n’y a pas suffisamment d’immigrants qui choisissent de vivre en français au Québec. Dans le reste du Canada, ce n’est pas un enjeu : tous les nouveaux arrivants, quelle que soit leur langue maternelle, finissent par parler anglais et vivre en anglais. Y compris les francophones, d’ailleurs.

Cette politique d’immigration, poussée par un élan multiculturaliste et postnational, ne convient pas au Québec, qui ne pourra plus très longtemps se contenter de demi-pouvoirs en matière d’immigration.


My latest: Increasing immigration to boost population? Not so fast.

In Policy Options:

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney recently called for a government white paper on immigration to support the Century Initiative’s advocacy in favour of a Canada of 100 million people by 2100. Immigration is seen as the most likely way to address Canada’s aging population and ensure there are a sufficient number of working adults to pay for increased health care and other costs of seniors, with calls for more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population growth to be due to immigration.

In many ways, this has parallels with the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada initiated under a Liberal government in the early 1980s that paved the way for the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement under the Conservative Mulroney government.

While a comprehensive and independent look at our immigration policies and programs is merited, any such review should take a critical look at Canada’s current and future needs, what fundamental questions need to be asked and the realities of what an increase would entail across Canadian society.

In the short term, we need to consider what the experience of past economic downturns tells us about immigrant economic outcomes. Statistics Canada’s Feng Hou gave a presentation in January of this year regarding the labour market outcomes during the COVID-19 lockdown and recovery. That presentation pointed out that following the 1990-91 recession, many recent immigrants were unemployed and under-employed, leading to criticism that Canada was overselling immigration. In contrast, immigrants arriving around the time of the 2008-9 recession were largely unscathed. It is too early to tell whether immigrant outcomes will resemble the deep and prolonged impact of 1990-91 or the minimal impact of 2008-9.

However, given what we know about which sectors (hospitality, travel, retail) and which groups (women, immigrants and visible minorities) have been most affected during COVID-19, how confident should we be that these sectors and groups will bounce back quickly? Will increased immigration exacerbate the difficulties these sectors and groups face? How likely is increased immigration to result in improved working conditions and equality for those we now recognize as “essential workers?”

In the longer term, it is striking the relative lack of attention regarding what sectors and workers are more likely to be vulnerable to automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and remote work, particularly in the context of setting a target some 80 years from now. Will professionals such as accountants, lawyers and other white-collar occupations become increasingly replaced in whole or in part? Will increased automation and AI result in “creative destruction” and new industry and job creation, or a further hollowing out of manufacturing? Will improved remote working technology lead to more offshoring and reduce the interest of moving and immigrating?

Only 8.7 per cent of recent immigrants settle outside our major urban areas. How realistic is the call for more immigrants to settle outside our major cities and urban areas? While the Provincial Nominee Program has had some success as have the various pilots (e.g., Atlantic, Northern and Remote), most new immigrants tend to settle in the larger provinces and urban centres. Government efforts to encourage immigration to francophone communities in English Canada continue to fall short of targets.

There are a number of other medium- and longer-term issues that will need to be addressed to successfully manage such growth.

To start, will governments invest in the public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, ranging from roads, transit, housing, health care, utilities and parks? Doug Saunders, in Maximum Canada, makes the convincing case that large-scale immigration requires these investments, along with other measures such as zoning to increase population density. However, experience to date suggests that Canadian governments have not done so, hampering growth and quality of life.

Canada already has difficulties meeting its climate change commitments. How likely is it that Canada will be able to do so with a significant increase in population creating further urban sprawl? Even if Canada manages to reduce emissions on a per-capita basis, a larger population will mean an overall increase in carbon emissions.

Will the general consensus among provincial governments in favour of more immigration increasingly confront the reality of Quebec’s reduced percentage of the Canadian population and the consequent increasing imbalance between population and representation in our various political and judicial institutions? How will Indigenous peoples, the fastest-growing group in Canada, perceive increased immigration, compared to addressing their socioeconomic and political issues?

The coalition that the Century Initiative is building in favour of increased immigration across the business community, non-governmental organizations, academics and others is impressive. The business community interest is clear: more immigrants mean more customers. But for any review or commission to be meaningful, it needs to engage with a broader group than those who already favour increased immigration and focus on per capita, rather than overall, growth.

Moreover, such a review has to question the fundamental premise that more immigration will “substantially alter Canada’s age structure and impending increase in the dependency ratio” when the available evidence suggests it will not.

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players rather than a much-needed more thoughtful and balanced discussion would be a disservice to Canadians.


@JohnIbbitson: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term #immigration policy [but what should that consensus be?]

John Ibbitson follows on this previous article, Politics It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population, highlighting former PM Mulroney’s call for increased immigration and a Canadian population around 100m by the turn of the century and the need for a white paper to help build the arguments to get us there.

However, before we get too caught up in the advocacy by the Century Initiative, the Business Council of Canada and the Globe and Mail, we should step back and ask some fundamental questions a white paper should ask beyond the basic demographic arguments:

  • Does more immigration increase or decrease inequality?
  • In the immediate post-COVID period, should immigration increase given what we know from previous downturns regarding how the most recent immigrants suffer short and some longer-term scarring?
  • How should we factor in the lower-paid “essential workers” and will increased immigration improve their working conditions or not?
  • Longer-term, what are the more likely affects of automation and AI on the labour market and the need for skilled and semi-skilled workers?
  • How realistic is it to improve settlement of immigrants outside of our major cities and regions given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada realistically invest in the needed public and private infrastructure needed to accommodate such growth, again given past and current experience?
  • Will Canada be able to do so in a manner that respects our current and likely future climate change commitments?
  • Will Indigenous peoples accept increased immigration and the focus on newcomers compared to their concerns?
  • Will the greater imbalance between immigration to Quebec and the rest of Canada place further pressures on the federation?

A white paper that largely replicates the group think of the Century Initiative and related players would be a disservice to Canadians, rather than the needed more thoughtful and balanced discussions:

Though progressives and conservatives in the United States disagree on practically everything, they do agree that Canada has a better immigration system.

But as a new paper in the magazine American Affairs points out, they think this only because neither side fully understands how the Canadian system works.

Right-wing Americans praise Canada’s ability to police its borders while focusing on economic migrants who can make an immediate contribution. No less an authority than Donald Trump declared, when he was president: “I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada” so that “we have people coming in that have a good track record.”

But American conservatives would be less impressed if they realized that Canada protects its border through a dense skein of rules and regulations, a so-called bureaucratic border wall.

The left, on the other hand, celebrates Canada’s robust commitment to diversity through immigration. But they would be appalled to learn that those same bureaucratic rules – such as requiring that all employees provide a social insurance number – make it virtually impossible for undocumented workers to live in this country, and that our system limits diversity by favouring immigrants from more-developed regions, such as South and East Asia, over less developed regions, including parts of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Each side sees only what it wants to see, emphasizing those aspects of Canada’s system that align with their ideological predispositions, while excluding the others,” wrote Michael Cuenco, a Canadian writer based in Calgary.

“The most vocal elements of the Right and the Left are like the blind men grasping at different parts of an elephant. No one has bothered to offer to either side an honest description of the whole.”

Both the left and the right in the U.S. might be even more nonplussed were they to learn that former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney has joined a growing chorus calling for Canada to more than double its population to 100 million by 2100.

They might not understand that what truly distinguishes the Canadian immigration system from the American is that Canada’s reflects decades of increasing ideological convergence on immigration policy, even as America becomes ever-more polarized.

The question for Canadians is whether we are willing to converge on future immigration targets in the same way we have in the past.

Progressive Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker first declared that immigration should be colour-blind. Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal government converted that principle into the points system. Liberal Pierre Trudeau married immigration to multiculturalism, while Mr. Mulroney tripled the intake. Liberals Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin converted a system that favoured the family-class category into one that favoured economic-class applicants, while Conservative Stephen Harper and Liberal Justin Trudeau further refined and expanded the program.

If future Liberal and Conservative governments were to choose to, say, (a) convert the temporary target of more than 400,000 immigrants a year recently established to overcome the cutbacks imposed by the pandemic into a permanent target; b) gradually move toward 500,000 a year over the course of this decade and c) reassess Canada’s needs as the population approaches 50 million at mid-century, that would be nothing out of keeping with the past six decades of immigration policy, which saw Canada’s population more than double from 18 million in 1960 to 38 million today.

Whether we want that future is something else. Proponents of population growth must convince skeptics that Canada can more than double in numbers while still meeting commitments on global warming, that cities can grow in population without increasing sprawl, that creativity and productivity require a young, dynamic populace.

But we need to remember: We got where we are by agreeing we should grow robustly, and that it didn’t matter where people came from, as long as they shared the values that ground the nation. That’s what brought the Irish and the Germans and the Ukrainians here in the 19th century, what brought the Italians and Portuguese and Greeks here after the war, what brought the Vietnamese boat people here and people from Somalia and Lebanon, the Hong Kongers and then Mainlanders and new arrivals from French West Africa and Haiti, the Sikhs and Hindus from India and the Sri Lankans and Filipinos and …

A hundred million? Why stop?

Source: Canadians need to form a consensus on long-term immigration policy

Ibbitson: It’s time for Canada to focus on expanding our population

As regular readers will know, I am not convinced that the arguments of the Century Initiative take into account the shorter-term impact of COVID on immigrant outcomes and the longer-term impact of automation and AI in their support of vastly increased immigration.

But the range of well-known people they have mobilized in their advocacy is impressive.

Their National Scorecard on Canada’s Growth and Prosperity is yet another approach to measuring how well Canada is doing with respect to overall socio-economic outcomes.

I do find it odd that a newspaper would take such a high profile advocacy role, essentially organizing a promotional event rather than a discussion more inclusive of diverse perspectives. Preaching to the converted rather than engaging those who need to be engaged.

That being said, the idea of a white paper makes sense, but its mandate needs to take a broader perspective on immigration, citizenship and multiculturalism than just justifying increased immigration levels.

And should we not also consider how to manage an aging population, not just focussing on increasing it?

On Brian Mulroney’s watch, Canada almost tripled the number of immigrants coming to Canada each year, from fewer than 90,000 people to more than 250,000.

Now Canada’s 18th prime minister is calling on Canadians to embrace what he calls “a new national policy” that would commit this country to achieving a population of 100 million by the end of the century.

“If we are going to maintain … our internal strength and our growth and our capacity and our outside influence, we need more people – a lot more,” Mr. Mulroney said Tuesday at a forum presented by The Globe and Mail and by Century Initiative, which champions the goal of a Canada that is 100-million strong by 2100.

Increasing the population by more than 60 million people would be “an historic and challenging initiative,” Mr. Mulroney acknowledged in an interview. After all, it took more than 150 years to get Canada’s population to 38 million. More than doubling it in about half that time would require much greater political and popular will than exists today.

Hence his proposal for “a white paper which indicates the need for 100 million people by the turn of the century.”

A white paper is a document through which a government puts forward a major policy proposal. If there is sufficient support, after consultation with experts, provincial governments and the broader population, it becomes settled policy, maintained by future governments whatever their partisan stripes.

Criticism of a white paper can be more important than the white paper itself. A deeply flawed white paper in 1969 that essentially called for the assimilation of First Nations into the general population helped give birth to Indigenous activism.

Conversely, a white paper on immigration produced three years earlier, which called for the final dismantling of racial barriers to accepting newcomers, led the Pearson government to invent the points system, which rated applicants based on how well they matched what the country was looking for, regardless of race.

High levels of race-blind immigration, embraced by both Liberal and Conservative governments, gave us the Canada we live in today. But the pandemic has restricted recruitment, and once the shortfall has been made up, there remains this vital question: How many people should live here?

A white paper on population, followed by a parliamentary committee travelling across the land, would encourage discussion, build momentum and, no doubt, focus opposition, which deserves to be heard.

Ideally, both Liberals and Conservatives at the federal level would express support for a target of 100 million through votes in the House and Senate.

If so, “that would become the new objective of Canada in this area,” Mr. Mulroney said, “and all governments would be bound to strive to achieve it.”

Such a goal would push Canada ahead of Germany and France and Britain in population, and probably ahead of Japan and South Korea and Vietnam as well.

That’s because the economic insecurity generated by the pandemic has exacerbated the decades-long trend of fertility decline. Low fertility, coupled with resistance to immigration, has led to population decline in dozens of countries.

Canada’s willingness to aggressively recruit newcomers leaves us better positioned to weather the demographic storms ahead than just about any other country. Taking immigration from 300,000 a people a year to a million, along with enhanced supports for child care and parental leave, would reduce labour shortages and help pay for the health care and pension needs of older Canadians, while boosting creativity and innovation. Imagine the contribution that a Toronto that was the size of New York or London or Tokyo would make to this country and to the world.

That said, the pandemic has completely disrupted how we live and work. The patterns of the past may never return. All sorts of assumptions – about downtowns and suburbs and rural areas, about commutes – may have to be rethought.

And as fertility continues to drop, the greatest obstacle to achieving a population of 100 million might be, not internal resistance, but a shrinking pool of available immigrants.

Nonetheless, Mr. Mulroney urges us to embrace “this indispensable cause.” For him, “this is a great dream of Canada, and it requires leadership to bring it true.”

Let the discussion begin, and let it begin with a new white paper on population.


Immigration levels plan: Reactions

Have been following the various reactions to date regarding the government’s (overly) ambitious targets for the next three years. Relatively few op-eds and commentary, possibly due to the focus on COVID and the US presidential election which are taking up most of the oxygen.

And much of the commentary focusses overly on the administrative issues, not the more substantive issues related to economic integration of immigrants during an economic recession, one that is likely to linger for a few years.

Have grouped these by constituency:


The plan was welcomed by the business sector.

“There is widespread agreement across party lines that immigration is essential to long-term economic growth,” said Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, which represents some of the country’s largest businesses.

“Newcomers bring energy, skills, new ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. They start companies, fill skill shortages, buy houses and pay taxes, … The minister’s plan will allow Canada to make up lost ground as the pandemic eases. It will inject new dynamism into our economy.”

The Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters even went one step further, saying Ottawa’s objectives were too modest and will not allow the country to catch up quickly enough over the coming months to compensate for the reduced number of immigrant admissions this year.

“Manufacturers are increasingly using immigration to supplement their workforce but there are not enough immigrants to meet the demand,” said Dennis Danby, its president and CEO, who represents 2,500 leading manufacturers in the country.

“If manufacturing is to be at the core of the economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis, we must do more in prioritizing immigration from the economic stream.” (Toronto Star)

As Canada’s leading voice on smart population growth, Century Initiative continues to advocate not just for increasing our population, but for policies to support that growth through investments in education and in the national and urban infrastructure that will allow our communities to grow in a sustainable manner. We also need to prioritize supporting parents with a national childcare strategy, and our children with early education programs.

Now is the right time to invest in growing our population. Environics Institute’s recent Focus Canada survey shows that a record two-thirds (66%) of Canadians reject the idea that immigration levels are too high, and that Canadians recognize the critical contribution immigrants make to our economy and our social fabric. We have a tremendous opportunity before us and welcome the opportunity to continue working with gover(nment to seize it in the interest of future generations of Canadians. (Century Initiative)

Opposition critics

Opposition MPs took aim at the way the government has handled immigration throughout the pandemic and questioned how the new targets would be achieved.

Conservative immigration critic Raquel Dancho said the government is announcing new levels without a plan for how they will be safely implemented.

Jenny Kwan, immigration critic for the NDP, said she believes the numbers are “a bit of a hoax” because the backlog to process applications is so great that the targets will be hard to meet.

Christine Normandin, the Bloc Québécois immigration critic, said in French that Ottawa is taking the opposite approach to the Quebec system. She said the province takes only as many immigrants as it can process in one year, while Ottawa sets goals without taking into account its capacity to do the paperwork. (Globe)

That lower-end target is actually below the low end of the number of immigrants, pre-pandemic, the Liberals had planned to admit in 2021, pointed out NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan. 

“The Liberals demonstrate a lack of conviction in their targets and left the door wide open for immigration levels to decrease,” she said in a statement.

It’s also not clear how unused room is being carried over. 

For example: the Liberals had planned to admit 49,000 refugees this year. Next year, according to Friday’s plan, they are aiming for 59,500. 

While that looks like an increase of 10,000, the number of refugees who have actually arrived in the first eight months of this year was down nearly 60 per cent from 2019 arrivals. 

So it’s possible that the 2021 figures merely incorporate the shortfall from this year, as opposed to being an overall increase. Mendicino wasn’t clear when asked about that issue Friday.  (Canadian Press)

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan said the government must not overlook the compassionate aspects of the immigration system, such as removing travel restrictions for asylum seekers and ensuring permanent residence status for migrant workers in recognition of their contributions during the pandemic.

“The immigration department’s processing abilities is still spotty at best and serious investment in staffing, far beyond what we’ve seen so far, is needed,” said Kwan.

“Without these investments, applicants are to expect significant increases in processing times for years to come, which were already long before the pandemic.” (Toronto Star)

Tweets from CPC critic Dancho:

The Liberals have failed to layout a plan to  bring in newcomers to Canada safely. No widespread access to rapid tests and the 14 day quarantine is not a financial option for many people. #cdnpoli

They have no plan to better resource immigration department to fulfil the levels promised.  Liberals are simply adding to their massive, years-long immigration backlogs that fail to provide potential newcomers with certainty, dignity or respect. #cdnpoli

The ministers announcement did not acknowledge the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 or the hundreds of thousands of Canadians facing unemployment since the pandemic hit and how these new ambitious immigration numbers will impact them. #cdnpoli

International organizations

Either way, that Canada even continues to open its arms is welcome, said Rema Jamous Imseis, the UN refugee agency’s Canadian representative. 

“In an era of travel restrictions and closed borders, refugees continue to be welcomed by Canadians,” she said in a statement.

“The significance of this lifeline and the deep generosity of Canadians cannot be overstated.” (Canadian Press)


While experts had expected Ottawa to stay the course with its immigration goals — given the government had publicly stated immigration would be key to restarting the post-COVID-19 economy, they were surprised the Liberals would decide to take it up a notch.

Although critics have raised concerns about high immigration given that the country’s jobless rate hovered at nine per cent in September — after peaking at 13.4 per cent in May — from 5.6 per cent before the pandemic, some experts say the government is on the right track.

“The timing for expanding the program now is good. But I’m surprised how high the targets are they have set. I don’t know how realistic it is from a bureaucratic administrative perspective,” said Carleton University economist Chris Worswick, who specializes in the economics of immigration.

“I commend the government for thinking about immigration again. I was worried that it wouldn’t happen. I wonder if they’re being too ambitious. I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll end up at a good place.” (Toronto Star)

Immigration lawyers and advocates

Immigration and refugee experts welcomed the move to grant permanent residency to those already in the country.

“I’ve always thought, even before COVID, that it makes a lot more sense to target people who are already educated here, or have work experience here, or at least have lived here. … These are people who are already demonstrating their genuine interest in Canada,” immigration lawyer Chantal Desloges said.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said her organization has urged the government to give permanent residency to those in Canada.

“What we need to see is that realization actually reflected in actual operations, actual policies, because at this point, the way the Immigration Department is working is running in completely the opposite direction,” she said. (Globe)

We need #StatusforAll and Fairness.
Today’s Canada’s Immigration Plan does neither.— Migrant Workers Alliance for Change (@MWACCanada) October 30, 2020

Contrary to what the government is saying, there is NO INCREASE in IMMIGRATION LEVELS. Instead, there was a 150,000 shortfall in immigrants in 2020, and the government is trying to catch up for it by increasing 50,000 each year for the next three years. But as COVID-19 continues, these promises are unlikely to be kept.+

The overall proportion of new immigrants remain the same, with the primary focus on “high waged” immigrants. However, to qualify for these immigration programs, migrants must show 12-24 months of high-waged work. With COVID-19-related job losses disproportionately impacting racialized people, many migrants don’t have access to these jobs and won’t qualify. No plan has been announced to ensure full and permanent immigration status for all migrant and undocumented people right now.+ Many migrants — including care workers and former international students — were not able to complete requirements for permanent residency in 2020 due to COVID-19. However, there is no meaningful increase in numbers on fixing of rules for these migrants in today’s announcement. (Migrant Workers Alliance)

On the right

Recent polls have shown that Canadians are weary about increasing immigration levels in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

A poll commissioned by True North found that an overwhelming 76% of Canadians strongly agreed with the idea of a temporary pause until a coronavirus vaccine is developed and unemployment drops to pre-coronavirus levels. Note: Polling firm unknown and thus is not credible

The poll results show a surprising consensus among political parties as well with 67% of Liberals wanting to impose a temporary pause, 66% of NDP voters and 89% of Conservatives. 

“Given today’s global circumstances of a public health pandemic and severe economic crisis, now is the perfect opportunity to revert back to our successful historic immigration model, listen to the majority of Canadians, and take another pause,” True North’s founder Candice Malcolm wrote when the poll was released. 

“It’s time for our leaders to listen to the people and do what’s best for our country.” (“True” North)

While the government touted the need for migrants to strengthen the economy, the unemployment rate in Canada, the unemployment rate currently stands at 9%, from an all-time high of 14% in May. Over 8 million Canadians applied for emergency COVID relief benefits in the form of the CERB. Canada’s unemployment rate was around 5% prior the pandemic. (Rebel Media)


Don’t make election about immigration, corporate Canada tells political leaders

Not surprising. Focus on the economic case (and economic class of immigrants) is where support for immigration is strongest:

Big business leaders worried about Canada’s aging demographics have been urging political parties to avoid inflaming the immigration debate ahead of this fall’s federal election.

The head of the lobby group representing chief executives of Canada’s largest corporations said he’s already raised the issue with political leaders who are shifting into campaign mode for the October vote.

With signs of public concern about immigration, Business Council of Canada president and CEO Goldy Hyder said he’s promoted the economic case in favour of opening the country’s doors to more people.

“We are 10 years away from a true demographic pressure point,” Hyder said during a meeting with reporters Thursday in Ottawa. “What I’ve said to the leaders of the political parties on this issue is, ‘Please, please do all you can to resist making this election about immigration.’ That’s as bluntly as I can say it to them.”

The message from corporate Canada comes at a time when public and political debate has focused on immigration, refugees and border security, to the point it could emerge as a key election issue, tempting parties fighting hard for votes.

A poll released this month by Ekos Research Associates suggested that the share of people who think there are too many visible minorities in Canada is up “significantly,” even though overall opposition to immigration has been largely unchanged in recent years and remains lower than it was in the 1990s.

Canada has been ratcheting up its immigration numbers and it plans to welcome more. The Immigration Department set targets of bringing in nearly 331,000 newcomers this year, 341,000 in 2020 and 350,000 in 2021, according to its 2018 report to Parliament.

As the baby-boomer generation ages, experts say Canada — like other western countries — will need a steady influx of workers to fill jobs and to fund social programs, like public health care, through taxes.

Thanks to the stronger economy, Canadian companies have already been dealing with labour shortages. Healthy employment growth has tightened job markets, making it more difficult for firms to find workers.

“Every job that sits empty is a person not paying taxes … We have job shortages across the country and they’re just not at the high end,” said Hyder, who added his members are well aware that immigration has become a tricky political issue.

“We’re worried about that in the sense that the public can very easily go to a xenophobic place.”

Hyder also brought up Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s election promise last year to cut annual immigration levels in his province by 20 per cent. Legault won the election after making the vow, even though Quebec faces significant demographic challenges.

Earlier this week, the Bank of Canada noted the economic importance of immigration in its monetary policy report. Carolyn Wilkins, the central bank’s senior deputy governor, said without immigration, Canada’s labour force would cease adding workers within five years.

“The fact we’ve got people that are buying things, that are using services, that are going to stores, that need houses — well, that creates a little bit of a boost to the economy,” Wilkins told a news conference in Ottawa when asked about the subject. “Certainly, immigration is a big part of the story in terms of potential growth, which will feed itself into actual growth.”

Hyder said he’s personally part of a group called the Century Initiative, which would like to see Canada, a country of about 37 million, grow to 100 million people by 2100.

The group was co-founded by Hyder and several others, including two members of the Trudeau government’s influential economic advisory council — Dominic Barton, global managing director of consulting firm McKinsey & Co., and Mark Wiseman, a senior managing director for investment management giant BlackRock Inc. Hyder was a business consultant before joining the business council and was once a top aide to federal Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark.

The Century Initiative wants Canada to responsibly expand its population as a way to help drive its economic potential.

“Demographics are not going to be relying on just making babies, we’re going to need immigration,” Hyder said. “We have to be able to communicate that from an economic perspective, but cognizant of the social concerns that people have.”

Source: Don’t make election about immigration, corporate Canada tells political leaders

Canada’s future prosperity depends on opening — not closing — our borders

More support for the “big Canada” approach by Hugh Segal, Maureen Silcoff and Karen Chen who write in favour of the Century Initiative and against the Safe Third Country Agreement.

And like the Century Initiative, little acknowledgement of some of the realities involved, along with the standard affirmation that Canada is largely empty. True of course, except for the places that the vast majority of Canadians, both long-standing and newcomers live and will likely continue to do so:

Canadian immigration policy and Canadian sovereignty have a shared purpose, and that purpose has a front door. Growing the size of our population, across the second largest land mass in the world, has always been a priority.

Canadian immigration policy and Canadian sovereignty have a shared purpose, and that purpose has a front door.

Growing the size of our population, across the second largest land mass in the world, has always been a priority. Economic prosperity, national security, development and opportunity require a growing population. Trading and, when necessary, competing with our southern neighbour, and the rest of the world, with a population smaller than California’s is difficult.

The front door for that policy has and will always include our formal border crossings, and will include refugee claims.

Processing refugee claims through the front door concurs with our international duties under the 1951 Refugee Convention, when, following the Second World War, we committed to do our part and accept refugee claimants, and not treat them as illegal while their cases are being processed.

The number of refugee claimants who cross our southern border irregularly rose dramatically after President Donald Trump took office — some 9,481 so far this year.

Many have taken the unsanctioned path of Roxham Road, the street between Champlain, N.Y., and Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Que., thus avoiding official ports of entry. They do this because the U.S.-Canada Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) requires refugee claimants to seek protection in the first “safe” country they enter, with narrow exceptions. The agreement applies only at official ports of entry, so by entering somewhere other than the front door, they can access Canada’s refugee system.

Critics say irregular arrivals have the effect of bringing the administration of our borders into disrepute. People have questioned how we can allow such crossings under the rule of law, for it questions the notion of “order” found in the “peace, order and good government” clause of our constitution.

Once we relegate people to irregular means of arrival, which the STCA has done, we risk seeing them as an undesirable element that bypasses the front door. We speak of them in numbers, using words like surge and flood. We respond by bemoaning our lack of capacity, assuming ill intentions, accusing them of cutting the queue and breaking the rules.

There is a solution.

The STCA was Canada’s idea. Bordered by the Arctic, two oceans and the United States, Canada sought to further limit the number of refugees able to claim protection here.

That makes sense, if you believe that limiting the number of refugees is a benefit to Canada. While the selection of immigrants and the determination of refugee status are subject to different criteria, overall, the country needs more people.

Most of Canada, well beneath the more climactically difficult extreme parts north, is empty. We have room for new cities, expanding communities in every province. Bangladesh received the same number of asylum-seekers in one day as the total number who entered Canada last year.

Moreover, whatever our views on America’s present immigration policy, the STCA no longer serves the purposes of Canada’s overall immigration policy. Canada needs population growth at a much faster rate. From Diefenbaker in the 1950s, through the Pearson, Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien, Martin, Harper and Trudeau governments, Ottawa has raised the annual immigration levels, not enough, but consistently under both Liberal and Conservative governments.

A distinguished group of Canadians launched an organization in 2016 called the “Century Initiative” aimed at growing our population to one hundred million by the next century. Experts in investment, finance, economics and planning argued this number was essential to building prosperity and opportunity. Barring an increase in the birth rate, immigration policy is key to accomplishing this goal. Our economic capacity to compete with our American allies, and not be intimidated by capricious, illegal and unjustified tariffs, would be enhanced by a population 300 per cent larger.

Canada has a tradition of responding to groups of people who require protection. Since the 1950s, Canada has responded with an open heart and an open front door to waves of Hungarian, Vietnamese, Syrian and other refugees. Each inflow has made us economically and socially stronger.

Our need for growth and our humanitarian commitment have led to a coherent policy championed by parties of all political stripes. As Barbara McDougall, a former Immigration and foreign minister in the Mulroney cabinet, once said when confronted by an unexpected landing of Tamil asylum seekers on the East Coast, “we don’t turn back boats filled with people.”

Opening the front door has another benefit. It removes the stigma and spectacle of families pushing strollers and pulling suitcases down Roxham Road; it removes the risk of people losing fingers, toes and even their lives to cross clandestinely in harsh weather; and it removes the pressure on Quebec.

We should return to our long-held immigration, growth and humanitarian principles, for they remain intertwined. Suspend the STCA and open the front door.

Source: Canada’s future prosperity depends on opening — not closing — our borders

Australia Needs to Sustain Immigration to Sustain Economic Growth – Bloomberg

The main fallacy in Daniel Moss’s arguments lies in not making any distinction between growth in GDP and GDP per capita. It is the latter that is a better measure of individual prosperity.

Both the Barton Commission and the Century Initiative make the same mistake in their arguments for large increases in immigration to Canada:

Australia just wrapped up its 26th consecutive year of economic growth. It’s always happy to trumpet that, but one major cause doesn’t get enough respect.

I’m not talking about the ascent of China, the country’s biggest trading partner, which certainly played a part. Nor do I mean Australia’s mineral wealth or the fiscal stimulus unleashed in 2008-2009 to fight the global slump.

The quiet force behind this growth streak is immigration. Or as squeamish politicians sometimes call it, “demographics” and “population growth.” Policy makers should be full-throated about the role immigration has had in sustaining Australia’s near-record run. There is a good story to tell, and the world ought to be listening. Who doesn’t want economic expansion?

Some, it would seem. Australia has its own right-wing nativist rabble. The urban-rural divide familiar to Northern Hemisphere readers is changing the contours of discourse Down Under — though less starkly, in part because compulsory voting maintains the sway of dense population centers and mainstream parties. There’s a risk that immigration becomes more of a whipping boy and the two major political parties, seeking to stem an erosion of support, go cold on population renewal as well.

The irony is that just as Australia cools to its points-based immigration system, that approach is getting buzz outside the country. Potential migrants are ranked according to the nation’s need for their skills. They also must pass health and character tests. There’s an English-language test on the country’s constitution, history and values.

Philip Lowe, governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, reminded an audience last year not to be drunk on international praise for the economic expansion. It hasn’t been 26 years of gangbusters growth for all: There were three periods of rising unemployment during that run, even if gross domestic product didn’t contract. He also worries that average growth in per-capita incomes over the next quarter century will be lower than in the previous quarter century.

Population growth, much of it through immigration, has swelled the national headcount by 50 percent over the past three decades, as noted by my Bloomberg News colleagues Jason Scott and Michael Heath. Lowe told the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum that “strong” population growth “flattered our headline growth figures.” GDP growth per capita certainly looks less awesome; it was almost zero at the end of last year. Other developed economies, take heed!

So what’s the problem? Let’s divide it into two buckets. The first is legitimate concern about strains on the environment. Australia is huge, but large tracts are barely populated. Most people live in a corner hugging the Eastern and Southern shores. So that sliver of the country is increasingly strained in terms of infrastructure. Housing prices are seen as out of reach for many, though that’s not a uniquely Australian phenomenon. You can make this argument and still be broadly supportive of a diverse and globally integrated national fabric.

The second bucket is thorny: a motley few radio shock jocks and single-issue politicians who gamble that trashing immigration will win them votes in outer suburbs or rural areas. Compulsory voting ensures that because everyone has to show up, the most extreme candidates tend to be offset or buried by the more traditional parties. They can still siphon votes, win the odd seat, rattle around and make trouble.

It’s the latter point that is the danger today, both fueled and compounded by the fact that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s conservative coalition has a mere one-seat majority in the parliament’s lower house. The opposition Labor Party smells blood, but its leadership is preoccupied with tactics rather than strategy.

Immigration is an easy, but risky, issue on which to make hay. Without immigration, Australia’s economic story would not have been such a happy one. For the sake of extending that 26-year run, politicians should resist the nativist temptation.

via Australia Needs to Sustain Immigration to Sustain Economic Growth – Bloomberg